Why teethless is a wrong word?


Why teethless is a wrong word?

If someone has quite a few teeth, the right word toothless sounds logical (the same difference is with footless and feetless – both are right. OK.)

Can I still use teethless if I speak about an animal (a fish) that has [size=167]no any teeth at all[/size] (haven’t and hadn’t had. and won’t have :))

The singular is used with adjective forms: a shoe store, a 10-minute break, toothless, eyeless in Gaza, an eyeful, hand-crafted, splay-footed, etc.

Your fish is still toothless, though he is left with nothing but gums. Cf. the toothed whales and the sabretoothed tiger.

I’m probably making a fool of myself by asking this question, but what on earth did you mean by ‘eyeless in Gaza’? :?

PS: Just thought of googling the phrase and found that it can be a pop group or a novel by Aldous Huxley, for example. But I did think for a moment that it might be an idiom (albeit very unusual)!

Generally, when the first element of a two-word compound is a noun, the singuar form is used. If the word requires a suffix in order to form the plural, then it is obligatory to use the singular. If there is no suffix on the plural form, then it is frequently possible to use the plural form in the compound. This is why you can say “people mover”, but you can’t say “pedestrians crossing”. You can say “toothmarks” or “teethmarks”, but you must say “fingerprint” and can’t say “fingersprint”.

I think that with the suffix -less, the singular is always required, or at least I can’t think of an example of an acceptable word with a plural + less. So, toothless is correct, and teethless is a bit strange.


Thank you for your responses and, especially, for the rule.



By the way, in Russian a ‘fish-individual’ :slight_smile: is always a she. By default :slight_smile:

I agree with Jamie that the use of the plural, though it may exist, sounds odd today. I think that the Dictionary.com definition is derivative, Tamara, of this one:

By the way, I am unaware of any footless birds, though many are flightless (and not described as wingless).

I’m lucky this is an English forum then, eh?-- where only ships are female by default.



Could you please tell me the pronunciation of the given word? Does it sort of rhyme with mood?


‘Toothed’ is pronounced [tu:tht] (some phonetic symbols can’t be displayed), i.e. like ‘tooth’ + a [t] sound.

As you can see, it doesn’t rhyme with ‘mood’.

Thank you, Mister Micawber.

Yes, I’ve found only “wingless insects” ( when the word is used in its direct sense :)).

“She’s just a ship”. :slight_smile:

Hi Folks,

I think “Teethless” is quite acceptable - at least in this part of the world- not used litterally. You would describe a committee or agency who have a particular responsiblity, but don’t have the resources or authority to meet that responsibility as “teethless”.

Huxley took the title “Eyeless in Gaza” is from a line in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes which is a reference to his (Milton’s) own blindness. I’m pretty sure that the pop group took their name from the Huxley’s book.

Flightless birds still have wings


Thank you, Art, now I feel that I should continue my asking.
But not about the compound words with -less, but about “Plural-nouns-used-as-adjectives” :slight_smile:

from the above rule given by Jamie, I can understand that noun-as-adjectives are usually used in the single form.
But arms race is still normal.

I only don’t know what to do in some particular cases, like this (for example):

firemen equipment vs. fireman equipment
Which one is ‘more right’? (Mr. Google doesn’t help to make a sound choice. :))

(And, as I understand, fireman’s equipment is not very suitable for general case at all…)